Opening Bell: 4.24.08

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Credit Suisse Q1 write-downs of $5.3B drives $2.1B loss (AP)
The big write-downs just keep coming. A $5 billion write-down and a $2.1 billion loss at Credit Suisse. Surprisingly, its the banks first loss during this whole mess, so in some respects, they're really behind the curve. Said CEO Brady Dougan: "I am confident that we will continue to serve as a safe haven for clients in uncertain and volatile markets, and to seize the opportunities that arise in times of market dislocation to create long-term value."
Debt Collection Done From India Appeals to U.S. Agencies (NYT)
Now they're outsourcing the debt collectors too! What a ridiculous outrage! In these economic times, we should hope that debt collection would be the one growth industry, there to provide millions, or at least hundreds of thousands of jobs to laid-off Americans. But nope. The debt collection industry -- rather than feeling a duty to the American worker -- has decided to shift more labor to India, apparently because it's cheaper, while still rather effective. Profiteers, all of them.
Apple Riding a 51% Jump in Mac Sales (NYT)
The Mac is back. Ok, it's already been back for awhile, and you'll have to forgive the obnoxious McCain reference. But it is back big. And now Apple is right back to square one: it's a computer company again. Sure, the iPhone is a big deal, and the iPod Touch (iPhone sans-phone) may be the future of the iPod, but for real growth, look no further than those things you find on tables at coffee shops, with stickers on 'em. And they're still just a sliver of the overall market.
CEO Says Microsoft Could Forgo Yahoo (WSJ)
Ballmer is trying to make Yahoo shareholders nervous, implying that Microsoft could, in the end, change its mind, particularly if Yahoo balks at the current price. Negotiating tactic much? Probably. But also probably a little truth, since, well, Microsoft could live without Yahoo. Oh and Microsoft employees are said to be growing increasingly wary. Not surprisingly. It's like being 17, and your parents are about to have a new kid.
Thai rice hits new record, feeding food fears (Reuters)
In places where rice is a diet stable, spiking rice prices are disturbing. In the US though, it's probably a good thing. Unless you must have your crispy duck with rice, it's really just wasted space in your stomach. Empty calories without much to show for it. Yeah, some sticky white rice can be nice. And arguably its the sina qua non of good sushi rolls, but really. No need. So we're sort of happy that Wal-Mart is now rationing the stuff. And since Wal-Mart=retailing, there's basically a big public rationing going on, the likes of which have not been seen here in quite awhile.


Peak Performance (Capital Spectator)
Another interesting discussion of whether the worst is over in the credit markets.
Shanghai index soars 9.3 percent on tax cut (AP)
Interesting: it wasn't all that long ago, that the Chinese government was doing everything in its power to slow down the raging stock market. You know, just cool it off a little. These included various measures aimed at borrowing and margin requirements and the like. Well, those measures worked too well, some might say, and now they're busily reversing course, trying to pump up the flagging Shanghai market. Stocks soared over 9 percent last night, as the government slashed a general tax on share transactions. The original tax was just proposed last May, so this is a sharp reversal.
L.A. Times parent Tribune Co. rescinds fee on smokers (LA Bizjournal)
We have no idea whether Sam Zell will be able to turn around Tribune or not. It's going to be tough and he's on a short shot clock. But we like the moves he's been making to get employees motivated. The latest: rescinding a fee levied on smokers. Under the old regime, those who smoked were compelled to pay an extra toke into their health insurance fund. Zell isn't having it. Said a spokesman, "We didn't feel it was consistent with the culture." Though the company still wishes employees would show good judgment.

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